James Winslow and his two KCMG LMP2 co-drivers Richard Bradley and Hiroshi Koizumi ended the 3 hour event in Fuji with the victory
Equity-One supported Englishman James Winslow has improved his chances of appearing on the grid at the 2014 24 Heures du Mans by claiming his second consecutive victory in the Asian Le Mans Series in Japan during the 3-Hours of Fuji. In his return for the Hong Kong-based KCMG LMP2 team, Winslow aided by fellow Englishman - and KCMG Formula Nippon driver - Richard Bradley and Japanese GT regular Hiroshi Koizumi took the race victory by just over a minute.
“With only one 30-minute session to qualifying the car, the KCMG team selected Richard Bradley to qualify for us - he is a works Toyota driver and with the Fuji race track being owned by Toyota it made sense to have him in the car with the thousands of laps he has completed there over the past four years.
“In the end Richard fell just six one-hundredths short for second on the grid. This didn’t show our true pace but we were very happy to start front row for the race as we knew we had more speed and three quick drivers.”
Tasked with starting the car, the team’s Japanese ‘veteran’ Hiroshi Koizumi charged off the line to immediately jump ahead of their Oak Racing LMP2 rivals, but in his efforts to open an advantage prior to handing over to Winslow, he spun and almost became bogged in the turn three gravel trap.
“He was pushing hard,” Winslow explained, “and pulled a six-second lead over Oak Racing, but then lost control and spun the car at the very fast turn three corner and lost over a minute in the sand trap restarting the car.
“I was in for the middle stint and took over the car in fifth position after 55 minutes of the race. We managed to get the car back through the traffic pretty quickly and I handed the car over to Richard in first place with a big enough lead for him to rejoin at the front. From there he never looked back to win by over a minute.
“It was a great experience driving against the Japanese SuperGT GT300 cars, they were so fast, quicker than us on the straights so it was very hard to overtake, plus they only needed 1-2 pit stops and we needed four, so it was a real effort to finish first overall.”
For Winslow the victory was made sweeter by the knowledge that he was comfortably able to match his more experienced team-mates and the Oak Racing regulars.
“I hadn’t done any miles at Fuji before, and only had 20 laps of dry running under my belt in LMP2 at Inje, so to match them for pace and be quickest in the car in the final practice session was important in keeping my name at the fore ahead of 2014 and that potential Le Mans seat. We had Oak Racing covered all weekend too, which considering their victory at Le Mans this year was valuable experience.
“It's a great feeling to have my name at the top of the Asian Le Mans Championship standings at the mid-point of the season, I’m looking forward to the next race in Zhuhai (China), which is a track I know very well from my championship winning days in Formula 3 and Formula Renault V6. I hope we can continue our winning streak and take out the championship and win that prized Le Mans 2014 entry!
“I can’t thank Dean Koutsoumidis and the team at Equity-One enough for their support this weekend, without their investment in my career, this wouldn’t have been possible. I’m looking forward to winning that coveted Le Mans seat and having them along for the ride next year.. can’t wait!”
Whilst Winslow was competing in the 3-Hours of Fuji, back in Australia, Equity-One’s Dean Koutsoumidis was contesting his own battle, as part of the Radical Australia Cup, in a prototype-esque Radical SR3 alongside fellow Victorian Robert Baird.
Quickest SR3 in both wet and dry practice, the Radical Team Melbourne car qualified on pole, but a bodywork misalignment saw them penalised post session and forced to start rear of field.
Storming through from the back in race one, the Baird/Koutsoumidis pairing recovered for tenth, before progressing further in race two to finish fifth.
“I love these things,” Koutsoumidis admitted with a broad smile afterwards. “They have so much aero grip it’s amazing, and the lap time is very similar to the Equity-One Audi R8 LMS around Phillip Island. It would have been nice to finish on the podium after being so quick in practice and qualifying, but that’s motor racing.. Now it’s on to the final round of Australian GT in New Zealand and a chance to make the championship podium..”
Koutsoumidis and regular GT team-mate Andrew McInnes will be at Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand for the final round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli on November 8-10.